With the recent news of an owl hooked by angler in Texas, I’ve been thinking back on a similar experience from 2007.
Early one Sunday morning, I grabbed my fishing gear for an impromptu trip to the Otonabee River, only minutes from my home. The river is part of the Trent-Severn Waterway as it passes through Peterborough, Ontario, and the numerous locks provide easy access to shore fishing opportunities for bass, panfish and the occasional muskie.
I chose to fish downriver from the lock, off the point that you can see in the photo above (although that dock extension didn’t exist at the time). The water tends to drop off quickly to accommodate large boats, but it was July and the weeds were already reaching the surface of the water. I tied on a jointed Rapala and cast it out over the weeds, hoping to witness the explosive top-water strike of a hungry bass. I hadn’t cast more than six or seven times before a heron gull swooped down out of nowhere and nailed the lure as it hit the surface. I tried to yank the lure out of its reach but reacted too late – the back treble hook buried itself in its body. The bird thrashed around trying to shake it loose, but ended up burying the front treble hook in its wing. Recognizing the hopelessness of its situation, the bird sat on the water’s surface staring at me. I slowly reeled it in to shore, picked it up and examined it. Both hooks were firmly buried. I reached for my pliers but they were nowhere to be found.
I set the rod down and put a large rock on it to keep the bird from dragging it into the water, and then ran up to find the Lockmaster. Thankfully, Parks Canada staff were already at work mowing the lawns and they were able to lend me a set of side-cutters. I was able to expose the hook heads and snip them off with the pliers. The bird flew away without thanking me and I resumed fishing. But after a few casts, I noticed at least 6 more gulls circling the area. Ultimately, I decided that I had had enough fishing excitement for one day. I packed my gear, making a mental note to buy a few extra sets of pliers.
To this day, it remains the strangest thing I’ve caught while fishing.